Buying electronics in Hong Kong's legendary electronic shops lining Nathan Road and the Mongkok area is an age-old practice for tech-lovers and curious visitors alike. Hong Kong has long been a prime destination for hawk-eyed shoppers buying cheap electronics. Prices are not as cheap as they were 10 or even 5 years ago, but, if you're willing to take a chance on an independent retailer and are ready to haggles, there is still money to be saved at the electronic shops.
When you're buying from a computer center where prices are substantially cheaper, be aware that you are buying parallel imports. A parallel import is a legitimate product brought into a country without the knowledge or approval of the intellectual property owner. The practice is a legal gray area and while the items are not counterfeits or knock-offs, purchasing parallel imports comes with some risks depending on where you're from. In Hong Kong, and the United States, however, parallel imports are legal.
You should also distinguish parallel imports from good old-fashioned scams. While most of the independent sellers are honest brokers, the area does have its rogues.
Here are dos and don'ts for buying electronics in Hong Kong:
Open the Box
If purchasing from a smaller shop, make sure you take away exactly what you bought. Under-counter switches aren't as popular as you may be led to believe, but they are not a total myth. Make sure you don't fall for this scam and be aware that return policies are almost non-existent. Before leaving with your purchase, open the box and verify that the correct product is inside, along with any and all accessories.
Compatibility is a frequent problem with parallel imports. Make sure the product is compatible with your home country, for example, PAL/NTSC, Dual Band vs Tri-Band phones. Additionally, check that the voltage of the item is compatible with the voltage in your home, unless you like your electronic equipment fried.
Finally, make sure the product is available for purchase in your home country. If it's not, repairing it there will prove difficult—or impossible—and will make a significant dent in your bank account if you have to take it to a specialist.
Check the Warranty
If you are buying a parallel import, it's likely the warranty from the manufacturer won't be valid at home. That means you won't be able to get a free repair if something goes wrong or it breaks.
Check the Price and Currency
If you are heading to some of the smaller shops, be sure to get a base price from one of Hong Kong's major retailers, such as Fortress. Doing this lets you know what price to expect while you're searching. It will also help you gauge what is a bargain and what isn't. Since you're dealing in a foreign currency, sellers have been known to take advantage of tourists' poor knowledge of the HK$ to USD exchange rate.
This is a must in independent stores. Prices are usually set artificially high, and if you don't bargain you may as well be mugging yourself. Getting 10 percent off the price is an absolute minimum while a 20 percent discount is what you should aim for. Know maximum amount you're willing to purchase the item for before you start bargaining and give a first offer below that number. Just don't start too far below or you may anger the seller
If you're feeling pressured to make a purchase, walk away. There are plenty of other shops where you can part with your hard-earned cash. Besides, walking away will usually induce the seller to offer you a further discount.